Lee Stevens Finds Coaching Rewarding Work
Grand Junction Rockies hitting coach Lee Stevens made a lot of baseball memories during his 17-year playing career. He relives some of those memories while watching the players he now coaches as they begin their careers in professional baseball.
“I get a kick out of watching them get their first hits or hitting their first home run. Their families come to see them play for the first time and I remember my parents doing that,” Stevens said. “And seeing guys I worked with make it to the big leagues is a great reward. You like to hope you were part of that. It’s great to see them fulfill their dreams and fun to watch them get to live the same dream I had as a player.”
Stevens played for several organizations including the California Angels, Texas Rangers, Montreal Expos, and Cleveland Indians. His last season as a player was in 2002 and he gave private lessons and coached some high school ball before making the transition back to pro ball.
“As you get older as a player, you start paying attention more to what your manager is doing if you’re thinking about getting into coaching,” Stevens said. “I try to be a student of the game and know where everyone is supposed to be not just me so I started learning more and more from my coaches. That’s when the coaching bug bit.”
And while doing private lessons and coaching high school, he realized he’d like to eventually return to pro ball.
“I want to give back to kids and teach them what I’ve learned from my playing years. I still have a passion for the game and wanted to try to pass on what I’ve learned,” Stevens said. “I love being around kids and teaching them the game of baseball. It was just a matter of time before I got back into it.”
A chance phone call to a minor league teammate led to Stevens landing a coaching job in the Rockies organization.
“I was living in the Denver area at the time and the general manager was Bill Geivett who I played with one year in the minor leagues with the Angels,” Stevens said. “I happened to have his phone number so I gave him a call. They were in my backyard and the rest is history. They interviewed me and there was a spot open so I jumped on it.”
Since then, Stevens has been a coach for Grand Junction and Modesto. Stevens now lives in Grand Junction full-time and said being able to coach at home is a dream come true, especially working alongside his fellow coaches to help the players.
“Luckily, the past four years we’ve all been extended spring training together. We were together three or three and a half months before we broke camp in Arizona and came here,” Stevens said. “We’re familiar with each other and that goes a long ways. It’s important for the kids to see a staff that gets along and is cohesive and there’s no turmoil or intensity there. It goes a long way to make the kids comfortable and see how things are done right.”
Stevens said he tries to model his coaching style after several coaches he’s worked with before while also staying true to himself.
“On the hitting side of it, Rudy Jaramillo, our hitting coach in Texas, and Part Roessler in Montreal have been influences but I’ve had a lot of great coaches and unfortunately you don’t always realize how good they are until later,” Stevens said. “You try to be yourself but you pick things up from different coaches styles like the way they go about things and I try to combine that with my own personality and style.”
Stevens said after players work with him, he hopes to instill them with two valuable lessons.
“Positivity and perseverance are things I hope they can take with them through the game. It’s a hard game. I played 17 years total and a lot of that was because I love the game and worked on persevering. I try to pass that along to them that it’s not always easy but enjoy it because it goes really fast.”
And while coaching baseball is important, the coaching staff focuses on helping the players also become the best version of themselves. It’s advice he hopes to pass on to future coaches.
“As far as advice about coaching, it’s just a baseball game. It’s more about life than it is about how many hits these guys get. We’re trying to teach them life values too,” Stevens said. “For any coach out there at any level, just let the kids go play and teach them something besides baseball. First and foremost, you want to show the kids you care and working with these kids is the biggest reward for me.”